Managing Collaborative Overload: #HBR on Knowing When and How to Give

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There’s a lot of wisdom out there about the power of giving as part of powerful leadership collaboration. “Although givers are the most valuable people in organizations, they’re also at the greatest risk for burnout. When they don’t protect themselves, their investments in others can cause them to feel overloaded and fatigued, fall behind on their work goals, and face more stress and conflict at home.” So how do we manage our giving so our collaborations are as restorative to us as they are to others?

According to Adam Grant and Reb Rebelle: “Givers do the lion’s share of connecting, as in “Hey, Steve, you should meet my other friend Steve because you both love computers and playing pranks.” (These two guys went on to found a company called Apple.) They stick their necks out to sponsor promising people and ideas: “I know this show is about nothing, and the characters aren’t likable, but it made me laugh.” (Seinfeld got another shot at NBC.) Givers share their knowledge freely: “You know your adhesive that won’t stick? Why don’t you use it to create a bookmark?” (Post-it notes were born.) And they volunteer to do the heavy lifting: “Sure, I’ll take a crack at rewriting this script.” (Frozen got the green light.)

Meanwhile, our research shows that across industries the people who make the most sustainable contributions to organizations — those who offer the most direct support, take the most initiative, and make the best suggestions — protect their time so that they can work on their own goals too.”

So it’s all about balance, isn’t it? They offer a great tool to measure our personal leadership balancing act:

Takers see every interaction as an opportunity to advance their own interests. They will run you ragged if you don’t protect yourself. But you can get better at spotting takers if you know what clues to look for: They act as if they deserve your help, and they don’t hesitate to impose on your time.
Matchers trade favors evenly. They can give as good as they get, but they expect reciprocity. Matching is a transactional, defensive stance — it adds less value for both you and others, but it can be helpful when you’re dealing with a taker.
Self-protective givers are generous, but they know their limits. Instead of saying yes to every help request, they look for high-impact, low-cost ways of giving so that they can sustain their generosity — and enjoy it along the way.
Selfless givers have high concern for others but low concern for themselves. They set few or no boundaries, which makes them especially vulnerable to takers. By ignoring their own needs, they exhaust themselves and, paradoxically, end up helping others less.

Which are you? Do you need to give more or take more? Can you take their advice to assess each gift you give, recognizing that “every no frees you up to say yes when it matters most.”

Read more of this Harvard Business Review article….

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